Thursday, July 30, 2009

Kentucky Preview

By: Tony Donohue

The Indy Car Series hits the lights Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway for the Meijer Indy 300. Twenty three drivers will run for the win, including three women, Indy Car regular Danica Patrick as well as part timers Sarah Fisher and Milka Duno. This year’s race has plenty to get excited about.

Last year, Helio Castroneves inherited the lead under yellow, but didn’t play the fuel mileage card in his favor as Scott Dixon passed Helio coming to the checkered flag. It was Dixon’s sixth win of the year. This year, Dixon is tied with teammate Dario Franchitti for wins with three a piece. Marco Andretti finished third, which was his last podium in the Indy Car Series. The only two drivers in the field this week with victories at Kentucky are Dixon and Tony Kanaan.

Kanaan desperately needs a win, or at least a top 5. After the fire at Edmonton, Kanaan is 9th in points and hasn’t finished in the top 5 since Kansas back in April. The bad luck continues to strike for TK, who has only lead 80 laps this season, compared to last year at this time where he had led 367 laps and was 3rd in the Championship standings. He finished 8th in last year’s Kentucky race and hopes to break back onto the podium.

This marks the first oval since the Indy Car’s snooze fest at Richmond. Some great changes have been made for the fans to look forward to. Rear tire ramps, side pod extensions and wheel backing plates will all help passing at this weekend’s race and no the “overtake assist.” All these things will help down force, passing and the ability of a trailing car to follow closer.

The Indy Lights Series will take center stage first at Kentucky Speedway. A tight points battle has J.R. Hildebrand with a 69 point lead over Sebastian Saavedra. The Lights Series will be celebrating its 100th race in Kentucky with a 100 mile race. Hildebrand has won three races this season, and looks to hold off the rest of the fiend for the win Saturday evening.

Prediction Time. In the Lights Series, Hildebrand and Saavedra are the favorites, but watch out for The Panther drivers. Panther was in victory lane last year at Kentucky, and Martin Plowman and Pippa Mann are looking to turn their seasons around. Wade Cunningham and James Davison will be front runners all night and in contention for the win. I think Davison will pull out a win after finishing 3rd last year.

In the night cap, the Indy Car race should be exciting. It is really hard to pick again Scott Dixon, but I will take Helio Castroneves to avenge his heartbreaking loss last year in Kentucky, and put Penske in victory lane for the second consecutive race after Will Power won in Edmonton. My dark horses are Ed Carpenter and Tomas Scheckter. Carpenter, has three career top ten’s and Kentucky, and Vision has finished in the top 5 there twice. Ed couldn’t be happier to return to an Oval. Scheckter, who was 5th at Kentucky two seasons ago, has always ran well there, dominated the race back in 2005. Look for Scheckter to run top 10 and challenge for a top 5.

You can catch the Meijer Indy 300 on Saturday night at 8 p.m. on Versus, and if you are at the race like I will be, I hope you enjoy and feel free to say hi!


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